Traditional vs. Behavioral Interviews

Traditional vs. Behavioral Interviews

Chances are it’s been a good long while since you went on a job interview. If you joined the military right after high school or college, you may never have been on a serious interview, making that part of landing a job really challenging. One of the most common challenges that transitioning military members face is knowing how to interview well. After all, it’s a skill and like all other skills, it gets better with practice.

One of the most common tactics that hiring managers use is something called behavior interviewing. Basically, this just means that the interviewer is going to ask you questions relating to your work experience that will help give insight into how you perform on the job. The logic here is that how you performed in the past can be an indicator into how you’ll perform in the future.

In traditional interviews, you’re asked a serious of questions that generally have straightforward answers. These are questions like, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” and “How have you overcome major challenges in your job?” Because you’re transitioning from the military to the civilian sector, you’re already climbing up a hill trying to find the best ways to explain what you did in the military. After all, since only 1% of the population joins, the chances are that your interviewer isn’t going to know what a CON-OP is or why you created one.

In a behavioral interview, you’re being assessed to determine if you have the skills that are needed for a job. Instead of asking how you would behave, they ask how did behave. Because the employer has already decided what skills the ideal candidate will possess, you’re either going to fit the bill or you won’t. The questions asked in these interviews are much more direct, more probing, and more specific. Be prepared for detailed follow up questions as well. These kinds of questions are designed to get to the heart of who you are and why you operate the way you do, so don’t feel like they’re too personal or probing. With a little extra preparation, you’ll be able to ace the interview.

Of course, preparation should include everything you normally do for a traditional interview. After all, you’re not going to know what kinds of questions will be asked of you until you sit down. In the days leading up to the interview, begin refreshing your memory about situations where you have dealt with unusual circumstances or things that you’ve done in your role in the military. If these are fresh in your mind, you’ll likely be able to use them to frame responses.

During the interview, remember it’s okay to ask questions if you’re not clear. It’s better than trying to drum up a response to something that doesn’t have anything to do with the intended answer. After asking for clarification, makes sure to include specific situations, the tasks that needed to be accomplished, the action you took, and the result of your actions in your answer. This will indicate to the interviewer that you understood the question clearly. Remember there are no right or wrong answers; the hiring person is just trying to get a sense of how you behaved in a situation. How you respond is going to help determine if you’re a good fit for the job.

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